Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

General Electric Switchgear Plant, 1921
69th & Elmwood Streets, Philadelphia PA 19142

John Mayer, Workshop of the World (Oliver Evans Press, 1990).

Built beginning in 1921 as a branch of General Electric's huge manufacturing interests, this facility eventually included over one-and-a-half million square feet of shop space and employed over 7,500 workers. The original product of this plant was high-voltage switching and circuit breaker devices. 1
The manufacturing activities at the Elmwood facility expanded continuously through the early 1970s and eventually included high-, medium-, and low-voltage circuit protection equipment.
The oil embargo of the 1970s caused a dramatic contraction of business. During a ten-year period the work force was reduced to its current level of around 450 employees, some operations were transferred to other GE facilities, and one million square feet of plant space was demolished (1984).
Today the factory produces replacement parts for switch gear, a "network protector," basically a high-voltage circuit breaker for power transmission grids, and components for gas turbine auxiliary units. The plant includes a foundry, a plating department and machine shop.

1  General Electric Company, Switchgear People, (Philadelphia, 1974); also, telephone interview with Chuck Fulton, Plant Manager, December 7, 1989.

Update May 2007 (by Joel Spivak):